Tag Archives: peace corps

Maonda na Mimi, Tunajuana

I wrote the title of this post in Kiswahili, yes. Most literally it translates as, “The monkeys and I, we are knowing one another.” This post should be considered inevitable in any Peace Corps blogger’s Peace Corps career, and as such, I feel like I should cover the topic today.

Today, as I was walking back to my house, having forgotten my bag of tech toys (modem, hard drive, etc.), I walked by one of the big alpha-male monkeys, got within two feet of him and kept on walking. He didn’t run. Normally they run. Do I think he feels dominant? No, because he is not the only one who stays. The mothers stay, as do the adolescents and even the babies. The monkeys know me. I don’t hurt them like the students do. They hang out at my house. It’s a safe space.

Yesterday in town I was walking around, comparing textbook prices, trying to fill in some gaps in our computer lab library. Actually, what’s one big gap called? We don’t have any books… I would enter stores and inquire about computer textbooks (sadly, often directed to the next textbook shop). Upon finishing my inquiry, one shopkeeper asked, “Wewe ni mwenyegi?” (Are you a local; literally, indigenous one). “Aaya” (an affirmative). Was it a little bit of a lie? Yes. But it was certainly a confidence booster.

The third sign occurred last week. My students asked, “Will you extend your contract for one more year?”

I arrived in Kenya hoping. I’ve lived in Kenya frustrated. I guess only time will tell how I feel when I leave Kenya.


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Peace Corps Announces Immediate Withdrawal From Kenya

Peace Corps HQ in Washington today announced an immediate withdrawal of all resources (they call us volunteers, “resources,”) from Kenya. In a move that shocked that Peace Corps community, as well as development efforts in Kenya, Peace Corps has stated that all volunteers, US national staff, and even the Host Country national staff will be immediately withdrawn, us volunteers having been notified over night. I was a bit confused at first by withdrawing the Host Country staff, considering they are Kenyans and their families are here, but when I asked the Country Director about this, he just said, “They are Peace Corps too! Where we go, they go!”

Other volunteers and I were talking about this amongst ourselves and were just befuddled. Most of us had expected either getting pulled out sometime in early 2009 as tensions from the previous year’s violence possibly escalated, but once all of that fizzled we figured we would easily be here until the end of our service in December 2010/January 2011. The program as a whole probably would not face another hurdle until the election of 2012, so we just didn’t know what was going on.

Gathering up the courage, we finally asked the office the question we were all wondering: “Why?” “We’re done,” our Country Director said. How could we be done? We just got here. Look all around, there are still things that need developing! To these comments, the CD simply replied:

“For the last time guys, we are not a development agency. We are a ‘soft diplomacy,’ group. We aren’t here to make things work, that’s impossible. We are in it for the friendships. It’s our goal to cultivate international friendships, good feelings, drinking buddies. You have all done that, and miraculously well. Kenya, in the past year alone, has shot up from position 62 on the official Peace Corps Friend-o-meter to #2, right behind Fiji. Now in Fiji, there are still some chances of accomplishing goal number 1, ‘to offer profession assistance,’ but because we wrote that goal off as impossible in Kenya years ago, our mission is done here.”

Astounded, myself and the other volunteers just looked at one another. Had we really done it? Had we really made all the friends we could make? And what the heck was this Friend-o-meter? We had heard about some of the metrics used to report Peace Corps activity to Congress, but this one certainly took the cake.

Of course, then the real doosie hit. The CD pulled me aside alone and told me some startling news. I would not be Completing my Service (COS) officially, instead I am being Administratively Separated (Ad Sepped). The reason? Even though Kenya as a whole successfully achieved its arbitrary friendship level, I did not. In fact, the CD informed me that people at my site considered me, “too serious,” “…didn’t socialize well,” “He didn’t laugh enough,” and I think one or two of them may have actually used expletives I taught them. As a result, I would not be COSing and instead I would be Ad Sepped based on some arbitrary metric that I had no control over nor did I ever know existed in the first place. Gah. Typical Peace Corps end to a typical Peace Corps service. Well, guess I will be seeing all of you on April 2nd.

EDIT: This story was posted as an April Fools Joke. No part of this story is true, nor should it be considered true in any way. This doesn’t mean you can’t get a laugh out of it though. I hope you have enjoyed reading it. Cheers! -Jonathan

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Point, Counterpoint and Counter-Point-Counterpoint

I had about a million different blog posts that I thought I could write up today as I sit in an empty computer lab, waiting for anybody to come but knowing nobody will because it’s finals and people just don’t want to be here. However, instead of use my time effectively and expressing my own opinion on a matter, I thought I would link you to three other opinions regarding what Peace Corps is. I do favor one, but I won’t tell you which one, though I am not as pessimistic on the subject as many people might think.

  1. The first piece, a blog post by journalist Nicholas Kristof, proposes a program called Teach for the World and briefly makes some comments on why he feels Peace Corps is inadequate in this day and age.
  2. The second piece is a response to Kristof’s by John Brown, who has a postfixed title of, “Adjunct Professor of Liberal Studies, Georgetown University,” which already leaves me with a bitter taste. I won’t tell you which post I agree with, but I will most certainly tell you which I one I do not, and it would be his. In response to claims about the education level of Peace Corps volunteers, I ask him to take a comprehensive survey of Georgetown asking, for example, who Gutenberg was and see how many of his students can answer that one correctly. Then, instead of picking on Peace Corps, maybe pick on America as a whole. Of course, being one of the instant-gratification masses myself, I would have to conclude such a request with kthxbye and maybe misspell everything; possibly get rid of vowels.
  3. The final article is a blog post composed by RPCV Peter Hessler that found its way onto the New Yorker. He responds to both Kristof and Brown.

Also, if I am taking the time to link people all around, please head over to fellow PCV Paul’s blog post about teaching and corruption where he also links to a good analysis by the World Bank (I guess they can do good work…) regarding what they call, “quiet corruption,” and it’s impact on development. Happy reading everybody!

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Saturday Reading

I am heading into Mombasa for my weekly (or biweekly in this case) chores trip. Going into the city, I have a few things I need to get done. First off, a haircut. My mane (as it can only be described at this point) is far too hot and needs a complete Mombasa-summer-worthy shave. Second off, I need to pick up a parcel at Posta before it starts accruing late fees. Third, I am hoping to get up to Camara for a couple hours to talk to Wilson about my possibly teaching programming. I also have a lunch date with Paul and his girlfriend ErinRose who is visiting from the States. And finally, need to run to the market for some necessities. I might also pick up another Kikoi or two on Biashara Street depending on the budget. In the meantime, I am providing some links to blogs and whatnot to better inform readers as to the things I think about on a day to day basis. Most of them are pretty tech-oriented, so if you aren’t into tech stuff, don’t bother clicking. If you are curious though, and you do wonder what tech-oriented news looks like, click away and open your minds.

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Linux: Ubuntu In My Lab

This entry is the third in a series covering GNU/Linux, an Operating System consisting of the Linux Kernel and applications from the Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) community, with an emphasis on its connections to the developing world. These articles assume at least a moderate understanding of the Linux and FOSS communities. For more information regarding these, I would direct interested parties to Linux.org as well as the Free Software Foundation and finally, for the truly interested, the GNU Manifesto. With all of this knowledge now in hand, I hope you enjoy the series. If you have not already done so, I suggest you go ahead and read the first and second posts in the series: Linux: Not Ready for the Big Time and Linux: It’s Everywhere and Nowhere.

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Market Days

This weekend I took a retreat down to Msembweni to visit my fellow volunteer Jeff’s site. Jeff and I are soon to be collaborating on yet another project, so it seemed a good idea to catch up with him. It’s also not a hard draw, considering he has a beach, a nice campsite, and a picturesque village. So off I went.

Of course, when you get to this village and sit on the beach and do the camping thing, you also wonder what else you can do. That Sunday, we decided to spend some time going to the market, because I was looking to expand my collection of work-wearable Hawaiian shirts, as well as pick up a couple kikois for the coming summer months and the subsequent summer heat. Normally one might think I would head up to Mombasa to pick things up, but I very quickly become annoyed at the Mombasa markets, and their crowds, and heat and pickpockets and yelling and people thinking I am a tourist.

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